Former Gov. Fob James is coming to the defense of
Chief Justice Roy Moore, six years after he said he
would use state troopers and the National Guard to
defend Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments.
Moore’s attorneys filed papers Thursday in which
James supported a second bid by Moore to have Attorney
General Bill Pryor barred from prosecuting the judge on
judicial ethics charges.
Moore is accused of violating judicial standards by
defying a federal court order to remove his Ten
Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state
judicial building. Pryor’s office will prosecute.
“I will shortly file a motion in the Court of the
Judiciary to strike Chief Justice Moore’s latest filing
because much of it is false, and all of it is
irrelevant,” Pryor said in a Thursday statement. “My
perspective on the judiciary, which is critical of
judicial activism and faithful to the Constitution, has
But James said Pryor, a James appointee who has since
won two elections on his own, in the past advocated the
idea of defying court decisions - a position James said
he considered a plus in appointing Pryor.
“Had he expressed his present view, I would not have
found him qualified to be attorney general of Alabama,”
James said in a sworn statement.
James called Pryor’s current positions “utterly
contrary to the political and legal convictions he
expressed to me.”
The former governor’s son, Fob James III, a lawyer,
also submitted a sworn statement in which he said Pryor
as attorney general represented Moore during past fights
over the Ten Commandments. Moore’s lawyers claim Pryor
should not be able to prosecute Moore because he was
once his lawyer.
In separate papers, Moore’s lawyers asked the Court
of the Judiciary to dismiss the charges. They also
sought permission to question the court’s judges like
potential jurors, including asking whether they have
taken money from the American Civil Liberties Union,
which opposes Moore.
The defense request involving James marked Moore’s
second attempt to disqualify Pryor from handling the
case. The Court of the Judiciary rejected Moore’s
initial request earlier this week.
After that decision, Moore sought to disqualify a
majority of the nine members on the court, which has
scheduled a Nov. 12 trial.
James has a history of backing Moore’s attempts to
display the Ten Commandment in courthouses.
In 1997, when Moore was still a circuit judge in
Etowah County, James told a church gathering he would
use troopers and Guard members to stop anyone from
removing a wooden Ten Commandments plaque Moore kept in
“The only way those Ten Commandments and prayer would
be stripped from that courtroom is with the force of
arms,” James said at the time.
Moore later campaigned as the “Ten Commandments
judge” to win the state’s highest judicial office and
placed a granite monument of the Old Testament laws in
the Supreme Court rotunda following his election.
A federal judge sided with three attorneys who filed
suit claiming the monument unconstitutionally promoted
religion, but Moore refused to remove it. The other
eight judges on the Supreme Court overruled Moore and
had the monument moved after he was charged with
violating judicial rules and automatically suspended.